University system launches Illinois Defense Network

The University of Illinois system announced on Tuesday the launching of an initiative called the Illinois Defense Network that will combine stakeholders of government, industry and academics to strengthen Illinois’ defense supply chain.

“A few years ago, the Department of Defense opened their Office of Economic Adjustment that was charged with helping communities that are touched by federal funding when the Department of Defense put out contracts to find out how impacted they were and understand what was happening in communities that have a military basis,” said Amelia Salter, economic outreach coordinator.

Findings of a new study led by the University of Illinois system were also announced. The new study researched statewide impact of federal defense spending.

The spending contributes billions of dollars to the Illinois economy, which then helps support over 100,000 jobs, according to the press release.

“We really focused on collecting the data in the first two years. We pulled more than 25,000 records into the database,” Salter said. “It’s going to allow us to take a lot of what we’ve learned and turn it into programs and services and start implementing them.”

The event was opened by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, chair of the state’s Military Economic Development Committee, followed by an outline of the new initiative by University of Illinois system officials, the Department of Defense and the new Illinois Defense Network.

“Back in 2016, the University decided to go for one of the grant opportunities. Even though the defense industry in Illinois doesn’t play a large role in the economy, other industries play a larger role in our (Gross Domestic Product),” Salter said. 

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